Created: Jan 03, 2023 08:00 AM
BEDC’s Shalini Johnstone, center, with Trevor Johnstone and his wife, Maricela, operators of the Plant-Based Fuel BDA (Photograph supplied)
The Bermuda Economic Development Corporation has launched a program to help food entrepreneurs on the island operate their businesses in fully licensed, commercial kitchens.
BEDC said the goal of the Underutilized Commercial Kitchens Program for Community Users is to provide interested entrepreneurs with an affordable, quality work environment to support their business start-up or expansion while at the same time provide commercial kitchen owners with the facility’s revenue they provide. otherwise do not receive.
The initiative has two elements – a matching program that introduces entrepreneurs to commercial kitchen owners, as well as BEDC’s direct rentals to aspiring entrepreneurs.
Jamillah Lodge, BEDC’s acting executive director, said the organization regularly receives requests from aspiring culinary entrepreneurs seeking information about the availability of commercial kitchens for their ventures.
He said: “With all the requests we received, we realized there was an opportunity to support small businesses looking for space.
“We know there are underutilized kitchens around the island in churches and community clubs.
“We know that some licensed kitchens on the island are not being fully utilised.
“So the idea is to match them with potential entrepreneurs who are interested in preparing and selling food.”
Once matched, both parties are free to make a deal.
Three of the kitchens in the matching program are at St James Church in Sandys, One Stop Variety in Pembroke, and Midland Heights Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Hamilton Parish.
BEDC has a more active role in the second element of the program; it leases space to community kitchens, including at Bethel AME Church near Shelly Bay, and then leases the space to community users.
William Spriggs, the economic and co-operative development director at BEDC, is the underutilized kitchens project lead, supported by program manager Shalini Johnstone.
Mr Spriggs said: “Some people don’t need the full trappings of a 24/7 kitchen. They might just need a few hours a week.”
He said the program gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to transition from a home-based kitchen, or to transition from a part-time to a full-time business.
Trevor Johnstone and his wife, Maricela, run Plant-Based Fuel BDA, the food service business that provides high quality and creative plant-based/vegan food.
In addition to catering, meal planning and personal chef services, the business offers a weekly food menu for pick-up, all prepared in the kitchen at Bethel AME.
Mr Johnstone, the chef and owner, said he started working out of Bethel AME’s kitchen on July 1, and spends all day there from Monday to Thursday.
He said the program was “good, good, good – I like it”.
Mr Johnstone added: “I can do a lot as far as production, and volume of production. I can do bigger catering jobs because I now have space to prepare and handle food.”
BEDC said all kitchens in the program are fully licensed and up to health code standards.
So, in addition to eliminating the need for small businesses to take out a loan to purchase expensive equipment or sign a long-term lease, one of the licensing requirements is also taken care of.
Right now, most kitchens in the program belong to sports clubs and churches, but BEDC is also open to overtures from underutilized restaurant kitchens.
Ms Lodge said: “Our aim is to get more kitchens known and let people know they are available.”
Kitchen owners or potential tenants are asked to contact BEDC to register their interest in the program.
BEDC’s Jamillah Lodge (Photograph supplied)
William Spriggs of BEDC (Photo provided)